Self-assembly is a remarkable phenomenon in nature and developing novel self-assembled systems for new technology areas is both exciting and important. Examples of new systems include ones where nanomaterials have been dispersed in liquid crystals to enhance their physical properties and to achieve alignment and self-assembly of nanomaterials into large organized structures in different dimensions. Such systems are potentially important because of their unusual switching properties which could be exploited in devices including, optical switches and diffraction gratings, as well as their novel architectures that will interact with light (photonic structures). The focus of this project will be to develop novel functional materials by combining liquid crystals and nanomaterials, to explore their suitability in new photonic devices.
Research involving liquid crystals in the School of Physics and Astronomy at Leeds is primarily experimental. We are interested in understanding structures of self-organizing fluids – liquid crystals – and the influence of the order on the bulk structures. Controlling the order and defects by surface structures is also a key interest in the group. We work on novel materials supplied by world-leading chemists and our research is truly interdisciplinary. During the course of a PhD project, a variety of experimental and device fabrication techniques will be employed offering an excellent practical training to the PhD student. Data are analysed in the context of relevant theories and computer modeling is used to both understand the systems and to predict behaviour. Overall, the student will obtain a thorough training in experimental techniques, optics, functional materials and photonic devices, giving them an excellent background for a career in research.